As a professor of Critical Multicultural Education, I work with teachers who are eager to implement equitable and social justice oriented instruction and practices, but they (rightfully) question what this actually looks like, not in theory, but in real schools and classrooms. In an ethnographic research study, I examined the everyday practices of two teachers who offer a contemporary vision of Social Justice Education practices and school structures grounded in actual teaching and learning (Woodrow, 2018).
In this research study in the participating school, I discovered that solidarity and connection were fundamental to implementing the more common features associated with social justice education: where connection is seeing that oppression is not a uniquely individual and isolated experience, but impacts all people through common destiny (see mutuality, King, 1963). Then, stemming from this connection comes “solidarity,” or the acknowledgement of others sharing similar feelings, experiences and potentially uniting in action. In the study, connection and solidarity were observed in (a) the physical classroom environment that emphasizes collaboration and community through the use of collaborative work arrangements, whole group space and conflict resolution space; (b) behavior management centered on restorative justice intended to correct the damage or harm caused to the individual and the community; (c) thematic and integrated curriculum designed with an emphasis on connecting the school, class and students with increasingly larger circles ending with the global community; and (d) an instructional program that features daily classroom/community meetings and classroom and community-based service learning.
What role does connection and solidarity play in your life, school and classroom?
How does or could your physical classroom environment and instruction be arranged to emphasize collaboration and community?
When redirecting student behavior is the whole of the classroom community considered? Should it be?
How does or could your curriculum evidence relationships across content and within the larger world?
King, M.L. (1963). Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In Kavanagh, A., & Oberdiek, J. (Eds.). (2013). Arguing about Law. (pp. 254-264). New York, NY: Routledge.
Woodrow, K. (2018). Practicing social justice through solidarity and connection. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 19(1), 45-59.
Kelli Woodrow is a professor and practitioner of Inclusive Critical Multicultural Education at Regis University. Connect with Kelli through Twitter, @dr_woodrow.